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Meet Koby

Koby wheels into the gym wearing blue mirrored aviators, a baseball hat, and bright striped socks that reach the middle of his calves. “They’re Funky,” he explains. “I mean, that’s the name of the brand.”

He has a remarkable sense of humor, an incredibly sharp wit, and the ability to make anyone feel at ease within moments of meeting him. “I love the saying, ‘you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great; keep it up.’”

Koby casually jokes about anything and everything, going through his schedule with a smile – until he switches gears and becomes incredibly serious. While working on physical therapy, he does not break eye contact or stop moving, even when his body protests.

“I like taking things one step farther than I’m asked,” he says. “Then every week, something gets better.”

In May, Koby Truesdell was at a beach in Naples, Florida, where he’d recently moved. Ready for a fun outing with his friend, he dove into the ocean. Mid-dive, the wave receded and he crashed into the sand headfirst. The accident left him with a cervical spine fracture, rib fractures, and respiratory failure. His friend performed CPR and Koby was taken to the local hospital. “When I woke up, I had 597 Facebook notifications. I didn’t know that many people cared about me.”

Koby flew back to his home state of Nebraska after an incredible online crowdfunding campaign. Donors raised thousands of dollars to support him and his journey, at which he expresses nothing but gratitude and disbelief, even months after the fact. “All the prayers and support I’ve received have been astonishing. I was on the news three times, and I only agreed to the last time so I could make sure everyone – even the anonymous people – got a chance to hear me say ‘thank you.’”

Brad Dexter, Koby’s physical therapist, is positive about his potential progress at QLI. He explains that this injury is incomplete, meaning Koby still has sensation below the level of his injury. Koby’s injury has manifested in one side of his body being much more affected than the other. While his right side moves with relative ease, he has less functional movement on his left side.

On the therapy mat, Koby flexes his hand and raises his left wrist. “See this? I couldn’t lift my wrist like this three days ago. Two nights ago, I was practicing in bed. I was so excited. It makes you see things differently – you really appreciate the little things.” He grits his teeth as he moves the muscles in his hips, his therapist nodding in approval. “Yeah, it’s kinda depressing to see all the stuff you can’t do anymore. But you can’t think like that; you can’t worry about the hiccups. … You gotta stay humble and push yourself.”

Koby’s word to describe himself is ‘determined,’ and it’s apt. He’s progressed from not being able to sit upright to not only sitting upright, but walking with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton. His plans for the future include starting his own business and walking his sister down the aisle at her wedding. Throughout everything he’s been through in the last four months, his drive to succeed hasn’t waned.

“Before, I’d see people in the hospital who weren’t progressing like I was, week to week. They’d ask, ‘What’s different about you?’”

He grins. “The key is: I never say ‘I can’t.’”

Stay tuned to hear more about Koby, and follow his journey of recovery during Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month and beyond!

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